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Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Avoiding cattle manure

Avoiding cattle manure
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New Zealand

Landcorp health and safety manager Joe Schumacher told LegalSafe how his organisation has tailored its worker engagement programme to its own unique requirements.

With more than 100 farms spread across the country, more than 700 permanent employees and a lot of seasonal or casual workers, plus a recent history of three fatal accidents, the organisation knew it was essential to involve all workers.

Instead of a traditional employee representation scheme it set up the Pāmu Safety Forum, made up of workers, managers, and a selection of subject matter experts from outside the organisation.

“There were no elections,” Schumacher said. “We knew this would be effectively a senior leadership team, so we needed people who would have the mana to stand in front of their peers and be listened to, but also the integrity to listen in their turn. We also knew that in a purely democratic process these people would not necessarily be put forward, so we went to our safety champions and said congratulations – you’ve been volun-told.”

Forum members include a couple of executives and several managers from key areas of the business, but also strong representation from the farming frontline.

“The last guy who was volun-told is a tractor driver from one of our remote small farms – someone whose voice, in other circumstances, would never have been heard.”

With workers needing to be flown to Wellington and provided with accommodation for every meeting, the initiative doesn’t come cheap, costing around $20,000 a time – a factor that serves to drive productivity, Schumacher said.

“I would hate to have to tell our CEO that we spent $20K to figure that we need to round the edges of our printer paper because the paper cut rate is too high. We need things that actually give a return on investment, that mean something, and that give some credibility when we take it back to the wider organisation and say that this is what your representatives are doing on your behalf.”

The forum’s impact has been even greater than expected, he said, having devised a set of key safety expectations that are changing conversations across the organisation, and amended a number of critical policies.

“These were policies that people, myself included, had believed, hand on heart, were the right approach. Imagine our dismay when the forum turned around and politely said: actually we think this is a significant volume of cattle manure. Here’s what you should do.”

The forum is not the only means of worker engagement for Landcorp. Rather than training H&S reps, the organisation has made the decision to provide training to all staff.

“We’ve set up something called the Pāmu Academy, which is probably our most expensive, expansive, and ultimately successful programme to date. We have a two-day training programme for anyone who has influence over direct-reports – farm managers and up – and a one day programme for everyone else.”

Rather than teaching about writing SOPs or identifying risks, however, Schumacher said the courses offer philosophy and psychology.

“We teach them how to have a health and safety conversation, and treat it as an opportunity to calibrate and normalise health and safety culture in behaviour. Our aim is to change the level of courage right down to our dairy assistants, so that if they see they’re at risk they’ll speak up.”



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Joe Schumacher
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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